0408

Boys to be allowed to wear skirts at leading boarding school

Boys will be allowed to wear skirts at one of the country’s leading boarding schools. The headteacher of Uppingham School in Rutland, whose alumni include Stephen Fry and celebrity chef Rick Stein, said any boy asking to do so would find a sympathetic ear. Richard Maloney, who joined the Uppingham in September 2016, said: “I would hope that any pupil could come to me and say, ‘This is who we are, this is how we wish to express ourselves. We want to wear these clothes’, and we would probably allow that.”

boys skirts 

Mr Maloney told The Sunday Times that last year during inclusivity week, one boy had decided to wear a long skirt for a few days to make a point. It comes as television doctor Christian Jessen, who spent three years at Uppingham, said he would “probably” have worn a skirt for its shock value had he been permitted to do so. Dr Jessen said neutral uniforms would help move away from gender stereotypes, but warned against early medical intervention in the case of children who were experimenting with gender in adolescence. The £36,000-a-year public school admitted its first female student as a day-girl in 1973 and is now fully co-educational. Unlike a growing number of public and state schools which have introduced “gender neutral” uniforms Uppingham still has separate uniforms for its male and female pupils.

Uppingham School

Boys wear charcoal trousers, white shirts and black jumpers. Girls wear grey skirts, white shirts, and cerise jumpers.  Both wear black blazers. Gareth Doodes, head-teacher of Devon College, welcomed the news but warned the school ethos was more important. “I think it’s about more than one statement, it’s the entire culture,” he said. “It’s about ensuring that a school is pastorally calibrated to ensure a child feels confident to wear the uniform of another sex.” Mr Doodes said Dover, which has 300 pupils between three and 18 years old, had no plans to introduce gender neutral uniforms but had worked to create an environment in which clothing choice was not seen as exclusive or divisive. He added: “I don’t think it’s about gender neutrality, but rather, allowing pupils to express themselves fully in an environment with is safe and supportive.” One pupil at Dover has been permitted, with the consent of the pupil’s parents, to wear the uniform of the opposite sex.
skirts

Last year alumni of the £20,000-a-year Highgate school in North London reacted with outrage when the school drew up a mix-and-match uniform policy allowing boys to wear skirts. One letter to the headteacher objected to “this preposterous proposal.” The school allows children to request staff address them by a name of the opposite gender, which around half a dozen have done. One boy has also been allowed to wear a dress to school. Other private schools have policies to deal with children questioning their gender identity. St Paul’s Girls’ School allows female pupils to be called by boys’ names and wear boys’ clothes. And Brighton College also replaced its uniform, which had been in place for 170 years, for a gender-neutral one. In 2016 around 80 state schools were allowing pupils to wear clothes of the opposite gender. Last year retailer John Lewis said it was removing girls and boys labels in its clothing as part of the fight against gender stereotyping.

0396

A British rapist who managed to stay out of the hands of the police for more than 30 years has been arrested after peeing in a neighbor’s plant pot. His urination immediately led to a DNA match.

Eric McKenna (59) raped two women in Newcastle between 1983 and 1988. The police have never been able to link the two rapes together, until the neighbors complained about McKenna. He had peed in their planter unasked. His DNA turned out to link the two rape cases. Why the police decided to do a DNA test remains a mystery for the time being.According to the regional police, the case is extremely unusual. “McKenna showed no remorse in the courtroom,” an officer told BBC, his gullible deed giving McKenna a 23-year prison sentence.

0395

Moscow to expel 23 British diplomats after row over Russian involvement in spy poisoning

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin pictured at a meeting in St Petersburg on FridayRussia is to expel 23 British diplomats, close the British Council in Russia and withdraw permission for Britain to open general consulate in St Petersburg. The response follows the expulsion of 23 Russian ambassadors earlier this week after the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury. Russia failed to respond to a deadline set by Theresa May for Moscow to explain whether it was behind the attack. The British ambassador to Russia Laurie Bristow was summoned for talks with the Russian Foreign Ministry on Saturday morning. He was told 23 British diplomats must leave Moscow within a week. On Friday, Scotland Yard launched a murder investigation after announcing that a Russian businessman who was found dead at his south London home, had been strangled, sparking fears of a second Moscow sponsored attack on British soil. Nikolai Glushkov, 68, who was a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin, was granted asylum in the UK after fleeing Russia in 2006. A former right-hand man of deceased oligarch, Boris Berezovsky, his death came just over a week after Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned by a nerve agent in Salisbury. He was found dead on Monday by his daughter after failing to turn up to a hearing in the commercial courts in London. News of this latest murder investigation will further stoke fears that critics or enemies of Russia and its leader, are no longer safe on British soil. It came as Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, escalated the war of Moscow Kremlinwords with Russia, when he accused Vladimir Putin of personally ordering the nerve agent attack. He said it was “overwhelmingly likely” that the Russian President was behind the attempted murder, a claim described as “unpar-donable” by Mr Putin’s spokesman. Downing Street said the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been invited to come to the UK to take a sample of the nerve agent used in Salisbury and the process is expected to begin “imminently”. A spokesman said the Prime Minister had been “kept informed” of developments but stressed that Mr Glushkov’s death was a police matter and that no direct link had been made with the Salisbury poisoning case. But Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, said the murder of Mr Glushkov appeared to “fit into a pattern” of violent deaths of enemies of Mr Putin. He said: “If there is a link between Mr Glushkov’s death and the Kremlin it will be further proof that we are dealing with essentially a rogue state which refuses to abide by international rules and has violated UN laws. “What has been going on is a deliberate attempt to settle Russian scores in the UK.” The former boss of the state airline, Aeroflot, Mr Glushkov had told friends he feared he was on a Kremlin hit-list. A former bodyguard, who worked for Sergei Skripal with his daughter YuliaMr Berezovsky, and knew Mr Glushkov well, said his death had all the hallmarks of a state-sponsored assassi-nation. The France based security expert, who asked to be identified only by his initials, RG, said: “I’m not at all surprised [that a murder investigation has been opened]. “You can easily choke someone in 10 seconds so that they fall into a comatose state and you can then continue strangling them without leaving any other marks on the body. It’s a technique they [the Russians] know well.” Mr Berezovsky was found hanged in the bathroom of his Surrey home in 2013, with the cause of death being put down to suicide. But suspicion has always surrounded the circumstances of his death, with many believing he was one of a number of Putin critics who were deliberately silenced.

0394

Suitcase spy poisoning plot: nerve agent ‘was planted in luggage of Sergei Skripal’s daughter’

Yulia and Sergei Skripal

The nerve agent that poisoned the Russian spy Sergei Skripalwas planted in his daughter’s suitcase before she left Moscow, intelligence agencies now believe. Senior sources have told the Telegraph they are convinced the Novichok nerve agent was hidden in the luggage of Yulia Skripal, the double agent’s 33-year-old daughter. They are working on the theory that the toxin was impregnated in an item of clothing or cosmetics or else in a gift that was opened in his house in Salisbury, meaning Miss Skripal was deliberately targeted to get at her father. At a public meeting on Thursday evening Paul Mills, deputy chief Constable of Wiltshire police, revealed 131 people could have potentially come into contact with the deadly nerve agent, and that they were being monitored by health authorities over the phone on a daily basis. He also said 46 people had attended hospital expressing concerns since the incident, and that cordons around areas where traces of the nerve agent had been found or could yet be found may remain in place for months. Col Skripal was convicted of spying for Britain in 2006 but came to the UK in 2010 in a spy swap. Counter terror police and MI5, hunting the would-be assassins, no longer think the Kremlin-backed hit squad ever entered the UK, making it Police guard the home of Det Sgt Nick Baileymuch harder for the UK authorities to pinpoint exactly who carried out the attempted murder of Colonel Skripal, 66, and his daughter. They remain in intensive care, fighting for their lives. Police sources have told the Telegraph that 24 cordons have now been erected in and around Salisbury as authorities race to eradicate any trace of the nerve agent. The latest cordon went up surrounding the home of Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who is seriously ill in hospital. In a tour of Salisbury on Thursday, Theresa May launched a withering attack on President Vladimir Putin’s regime as Moscow prepared to expel British diplomats in retaliation for the sending home of 23 Russian suspected spies. The prime minister said: “We do hold Russia culpable for this brazen, brazen act and despicable act, which has taken place on the streets of what is such a remarkable city.” International allies rallied round Mrs May, directly blaming Russia for the attack. In a joint statement Britain, America, France and Germany said there was “no plausible alternative explanation” for the nerve agent attack other than Russian involvement. Det Sgt Nick BaileyDonald Trump said: “It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it” while the US administration announced fresh sanctions against the Putin regime for election meddling and cyber attacks, separate to the nerve agent poisoning of Col Skripal and his daughter. The political fallout from the nerve gas attack continued to reverberate with the Det Sgt Bailey’s family criticising Jeremy Corbyn for failing to condemn the Kremlin the previous day. William Pomeroy, the detective’s father-in-law and a life-long Labour voter, said: “I’m very disappointed in Mr Corbyn. He’s said almost nothing about this and came across as very weak on it. “He seems to have been a bit mealy mouthed about Russia’s involvement. It’s disappointing because he should be representing ordinary people like me.” DS Bailey, a 38-year-old father-of-two, was poisoned at Col Skripal’s home rather than at the bench in the city centre where the couple later collapsed, it is understood. That bolsters the belief that the nerve agent was brought into the home inadvertently by Ms Skripal. She arrived in the UK on Saturday March 3 on a flight from Moscow that landed, according to police, at 2.40pm. One source said it was straight forward for the assassins to break into Ms Skripal’s apartment in Moscow and plant the nerve agent in her luggage. Security sources have told The Telegraph that the timings are “hugely significant”. The next day, the pair drove into Salisbury city centre, parking in Yulia and Sergei SkripalSainsbury’s car park at 1.40pm before going to the Bishops Mill pub and on to Zizzi restaurant before collapsing on a bench. Traces of Novichok nerve agent have been found on Col Skripal’s car and in the restaurant and pub. Experts said it was telling that counter terror police have issued no images of possible suspects, given the large number of CCTV cameras in and around Salisbury city centre. The cordon thrown up around Det Sgt Bailey’s family home in the village of Alderholt in Dorset, 14 miles from Salisbury, included the entire cul-de-sac and surrounding streets. Both family cars were removed 11 days after the Wiltshire officer was made ill. Another car was removed from outside a house in married quarters at Larkhill garrison, home of the Royal Artillery, 13 miles north of Salisbury. Troops, trained in chemical warfare, are being deployed to decontaminate all areas which may have come into contact with the ‘persistent’ deadly nerve agent. Officials have drawn up a list of possible affected areas and objects and are working their way through them in order of highest risk. One source said: “You would basically need to decontaminate the whole of Salisbury before you could declare it safe to the public.” Public Health England has insisted there is a “low risk” to the public.

0393

‘Western plot to discredit Moscow’: How the spy scandal is playing out in Russia

IRussian policemen guard the entrance to the British Embassy in Moscow, where theories abound t has now been over a week since former double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent.

With echoes of the Litvinenko murder in November 2006, deemed to be ‘probably’ the handiwork of Kremlin agents, the British government has been quick to apportion blame on Russia for the attempted hit. Unsurprisingly, however, a very different narrative is being played out inside Russia.

What the officials say…

While President Vladimir Putin and his foreign secretary have straight-out denied Russin involvement, many officials have gone a step further. Central to some responses is a theory that the attack was, in fact, carried out by none other than UK and US intelligence agencies in a Western plot to discredit Mr Putin ahead of presidential elections on Sunday. Evgenny Primakov Jr, a designated “trusted representative” of Mr Putin, authorised to speak on behalf of his campaign during the Russian presidential election, said: “Frankly, in Moscow we are in shock. The whole thing looks insane. No one here believes this was a Russian attack. “We are absolutely sure, 100 percent sure, that the whole thing is aimed at our elections. In my personal opinion, I’m absolutely sure Sergei Skripal was poisoned by the British or American secret services.” Meanwhile, Russian The headquarters of the FSB security service, the successor to the KGB in central MoscowMP and former FSB director Nikolai Kovalyov said that it is possible British spies may be involved in not just the latest poisoning, but also the deaths of other agents on British soil. “Considering this and the death of other traitors in England, I have formed the impression that British spies, once they have got full use out of a traitor, are willing to sacrifice them – and then say that it was Russia that did it,” he said. This, he claimed, in the interview with RIA Novosti, benefited the UK, USA and also Ukraine in portraying Russia as an aggressor state. He had another theory: “There is a laboratory in this town [Salisbury]. Look into whether they was a leak from there.” Maria Zakharova, meanwhile, the the foreign ministry spokesperson, is behind a series of fiery Kremlin communiques in which she has called Mrs May’s speeches in the House of Commons a “circus show” and “fairy tales”, and went on to say that the British position “is a political campaign founded on provocation”. In the last week Ms Zakharova has even suggested that the assassination attempt may be sour grapes after Russia beat England in the bid to host this year’s World Cup. In response to Boris Johnson’s threats of boycotting the tournament, Ms Zakharova reminded journalists that it was Britain who had lost out to Russia in the bid . “Announcements like this, made by the head of a government department – it’s just madness really,’ she commented, adding one final sleight to the Foreign Secretary: “What sort of a person … does that?” Theresa May has described many of the official Russian responses as amounting to little more than “sarcasm, contempt and defiance”.

What the press says…

State-owned media outlets like RIA Novosti, Rossiyskaya Gazeta and Tass Ru have been conspicuously quiet on the subject of the Skripal poisoning. Earlier this week, news in Russia has concentrated on the death of actor and director Oleg Tabakov, and on the sacking of Rex Tillerson, which papers have gleefully hailed as signs of White House chaos. The broadcasters, however, have come out all guns blazing in defence of the Kremlin. State television station, Russia 1, ran a story entitled The Death Trap, referring to the number of Russians who have died on British soil under suspicious circumstances, while Pervyj Kanal argued that Skripal was of no danger to Russia and was a “spent The western plot is a perfect chance to discredit Putin ahead of elections, it has been suggestedforce”. Both Russia 1 and  Pervyj Kanal have also implied British complicity in the Skripal attack as a means by which to discredit Russia on an international stage. Russia 1 commented that the poisoning was of use only to “British Russophobes” as well as the USA and possibly Ukraine, with whom Russia is currently involved in a proxy war.  Pervyj Kanal seemingly sought to implicate British secret services in the attempted murder, adding that it was no coincidence that both Litvinenko and Skripal were handled by the same intelligence consultant. RT, previously Russia Today, was also hard at work stirring the pot. When Ms Zakharova angrily objected to Theresa May calling the Russian foreign ministry unfit for his post, it was soon after revealed that the Prime Minister had in fact said no such thing. Who was behind this apocryphal slagging match? None other than RT editor Margarita Simonyan. By comparison, non state-run media, of which there are increasingly few in Russia now, have been leading with the story over the week and have not shied away from laying the blame at the Kremlin’s doorstep. Meduza, which was formed in Riga by Galina Timchenko after being fired from her post as editor of Lenta.ru on the orders of the Kremlin, has been investigating the nerve agent Novichok and quoted its creator, Vil Mirzayanov, as having told The Telegraph that “only Russia could do this”. At the same time, Novaya Gazeta, ran with the chilling headline, ‘No Russian exile is immortal’. Novaya Gazeta is one of the few publications left in Russia that openly criticises the state. Since 2001, six of their journalists have been murdered.

What the commentators say…

Veteran RT commentator Igor Maltsev complained of the absence of any evidence to catch Russia red handed. “Everything surrounding the Skripal case is a mass of facts and counter-facts. Only one thing is for certain – that Russia is guilty of everything, a fact apparently as unshakeable as Westminster Bridge,” he said. This was all the more pressing for Mr Maltsev, whose employer RT, is a potential target for expulsion as part UK sanctions. Russia’s main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, took to Twitter to suggest expelling oligarchs from London. “The unpleasant scenario for Putin would be if the English finally chuck out from their country dozens of our officials and oligarchs with their families and money,” he wrote. He then cited three key individuals – “Abramovich, Usmanov and Shuvalov” – all of whom live in London and made the wealth in the chaotic years following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Abramovich and Usmanov own or part Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich couldbe part of the bargainown Chelsea and Arsenal football clubs respectively. Boris Akunin, one of Russia’s most popular authors, however, said that expelling oligarchs was precisely what Putin wants.  Setting out his theory in a Facebook post on Tuesday, the detective writer said that the Skripal attack was designed to goad the British government into destroying the oligarch community in London, a group which the Kremlin would like to see weakened. “The creation of a situation in which this particular group will be forced back into Kremlin-controlled territory, is useful and advantageous for Putin,” he said. The former sleeper-agent and, now, Russian television personality Anna Chapman labelled Mr Skripal a traitor. Ms Chapman, who was exchanged for Mr Skripal in 2010, said: “As always Russia is guilty by default… despite the fact that traitor Skripal was pardoned by the President and released.”

And what the trolls say…

The so-called troll factories have had their work cut out. A mysterious building on the outskirts of St Petersburg is reputed to house several hundred professional trolls who are employed to spend their days writing pro-Russian doggerel on social media and in the comments section of web articles in the western press.  In the immediate aftermath of the poisoning, many were quick to avert the blame from Russia. One, named ‘Germann Arlington’, commented on an article in The Times: “It sounds like an open and shut case.The investigators did not even start working and the mainstream media (and the commenters) have already assigned the guilt. Does it sound like a proper investigation? Maybe the officers already had all the required answers (from above) and were just ticking boxes?” Fellow commenters were quick to respond. “Good work muddying the waters comrade!,” wrote one. “Nearly as efficient as the FSB,” wrote another. Bravely soldiering on for a few more comments, Germann Arlington eventually succumbed after falling foul of the grammar pedants who were quick to pick up on his wooden use of English. “English teachers in Moscow aren’t what they used to be,” said one pedant, providing the final hammer blow to that exchange.

 

0392

Russia makes bizarre ‘Sherlock Holmes’ defence over Salisbury spy poisoning

Russia compared the British government to Inspector LeStrade, a “hapless” investigator from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, as it denied responsibility for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal. The bizarre comments were made by Vasily Nebenzya, the Russian permanent representative to the UN, who also suggested the UK or others could have tried to kill Mr Skripal in act of “black PR” designed to “tarnish Russia”. He also suggested that the British public were “not well educated” and being “influenced” by their government. In a lengthy address to the UN Security Council Mr Nebenzya said: “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the British classic, famed in his country and very popular in Russia, has a hapless character, Inspector LeStrade from Scotland Yard. “He doesn’t have the methods of deduction, he is not particularly smart. His role is to be the background for the extraordinary deductive powers of Sherlock Holmes. “LeStrade latches on to something that is on the surface of a crime and is in a hurry to prove banal conclusions Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenziaonly to be overturned by Sherlock Holmes, who always finds what is behind the crime and what is the motive for it. “I’m not saying people working at Scotland Yard today are not professional, God guard me from that, but I do think we could all benefit from having a Sherlock Holmes with us today.” He added: “The collective Inspector LeStrades today are high level members of the UK government who are coming up with egregious, superficial and unsupported accusations which have far reaching consequences.” Mr Nebenzya went on: “Is this incident something that benefits Russia on the eve of presidential elections and the world football championships? I can think of a number of countries who would benefit a great deal from this incident and blaming Russia for it.” He said Mr Skripal had no longer been any threat to Russia. “But he is a perfect victim which could justify any unthinkable lie, any kind of dirt or black PR tarnishing Russia,” he said. “We are witnessing that the authorities of the UK are constantly trying to tarnish Russia, stooping to any low. He said: “A hysterical atmosphere is being created by London and they are being completely non-transparent in this. They are trying to influence the public which is very easy to influence and not well educated.” Mr Nebenzya accused the UK of “using the language of the 19th Century and colonialism”. He added: “The ultimatum from London is something we can’t pay attention to and we consider it null and void. We have nothing to fear, we have nothing to hide. “We do not speak the language of ultimatums. We will not allow anyone to speak to us in that language, but we are polite.” On Mrs May’s letter he said it contained “completely irresponsible statements,” adding: “It’s difficult  for me even to comment using diplomatic vocabulary. It contains threats to a sovereign nation. Russia had nothing to do with this incident.”

0387

Only Moscow could conduct Salisbury attack, says Russian scientist who warned world of nerve agent without cure

The former Russian double agent and his daughter poisoned by a deadly nerve agent will either die or be crippled by their exposure to Novichok, according to the whistleblower who alerted the world to Russia’s secret chemical weapons programme. Vil Mirzayanov, a chemist who worked at the heart of the Soviet programme, said Russia was the only country able to produce and deploy such a powerful nerve agent, and he warned that many more people may fall ill. “It is at least 10 times more powerful than any known nerve agent. Plus practically it is incurable,” he said at his New Jersey home on Monday evening. “These people are gone – the man and his daughter. Even if they survive they Dr Vil Mirzayanov first alerted the world to the danger of Novichok nerve agents in 1992 will not recover. That is the terrible damage it does. I’m afraid many more people were exposed.” He added that he believed the poison used in the Salisbury attack would have been manufactured in Russia as two, harmless components. They would have been brought into the UK and then combined inside a tiny, easily hidden aerosol spray that could be used to deliver a deadly dose and a “deliberate demonstration” to Moscow’s enemies around the world. He spoke hours after Theresa May gave Vladimir Putin until the end of Tuesday to explain the use of Novichok or face retaliation. Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia have been in hospital in a critical condition since being found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre on March 4. Mrs May said either Russia carried out the attack or had lost control of its nerve agent. Dr Mirzayanov said even the existence of Novichok, let alone its formulae, had been a closely guarded secret, making it “unthinkable” that another country or terrorist group had been allowed access or help in its manufacture.

“Only Russia could do this,” he said. “They would never give it away.” The Russian scientist, who fled his homeland in 1995 and now lives in New Jersey, revealed the existence of the Novichok family of nerve agents in 1992 but said it was still so little understood that it had never been banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention. Nor had it ever been declared by Russia. That made it perfect for assassinations, he said, as Russian security forces believed it could not be traced to Moscow. This was the first time it had ever been used, according to Dr Mirzayanov, who added it was most likely weaponised as a spray. “It can be delivered in many ways but it was most probably given Investigators in protective clothingin aerosol can,” he said. “It can be small, just 10 grammes would be a lot. In summer maybe just two grammes would be enough to kill 500 people.” It would almost certainly have been manufactured in Russia, he added. “They can send anywhere through the diplomatic bag,” he said. For 26 years Dr Mirzayanov worked for GOSNIIOKhT (the State Scientific Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology or better known in Russian as “Goodnight”), the Soviet Union’s premier military centre for producing chemical weapons. He headed a counter-intelligence unit which monitored the surrounding area to ensure Novichok – the Russian for “newcomer” – or other nerve agents were not leaking out where they could be detected and analysed by foreign spies. He went public about the programme in 1992 after discovering frightening levels of chemicals outside the facility. Dr Mirzayanov was fired and arrested for treason. The subsequent trial collapsed but not before he managed to copy down 60 secret documents submitted in evidence. They formed the basis of a book detailing Russia’s secret programme written after he was allowed to leave the country. He has lived ever since in New Jersey, where he took a post at Rutgers University. He had no idea his old life was about to intrude when he read about the apparent poisoning of a former Russian spy in Salisbury last week. “I never, ever supposed they would use Novichok,” he said. Instead he assumed it was VX – like that used by North Koreans to kill the estranged half brother of Kim Jung-un in Malaysia. “I supposed that there was no necessity to use it. It’s more brutal, more painful,” he said. “But what could be so important that you have to use something this terrible?” “It was a deliberate demonstration by Vladimir Putin of his power against his enemies. This was a brazen and deliberate demonstration.” The agent causes vomiting and convulsions as the central nervous system shuts down, he said. It was developed as part of the Soviet Union’s ongoing quest to refine its arsenal of chemical weapons, as scientists tried to find variants with improved stability, rates of reaction and ability to permeate the skin. Jerry Smith, a former chemical weapons inspector for the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said the Novichok agent is “very persistent” and could linger for a “reasonable length of time”. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “To be honest there is very little knowledge in the open source about these agents. There is sort of six or seven elements that the whistleblower put out of certain lightweight detail shall we say, not a huge amount of detail. “But we do know that they can be as you mention binary, we do know that they can be very persistent.

“In fact they can actually be micro pulverised dust so they are called dusty agents rather than being a liquid so they can hang around on surfaces for a reasonable length of time.”

Mr Smith also suggested the agent could have been made by other “advanced countries”.

“I assume that the investigation has found particular pointers for the Prime Minister to make an accusation that actually pointed towards one country because certainly the technology is out there for advanced countries, other countries, to manufacture it,” he said.

 

0371

Heathrow worker dies after serious acci-dent at airport

There has been a serious accident involving two vehicles on the airfield

A Heathrow Airport worker has died after an accident which meant hundreds of passengers were evacuated from planes on the tarmac. Emergency teams have been rushed to the scene after the incident which happened around 6am at Terminal 5. Hundreds of people have been stuck on their planes, and many have complained of confusion and delays. There was a crash between two vehicles on the airfield, injuring two members of staff. One man, in his 40s, was taken to a West London hospital and later died. In a statement, Scotland Yard said: “Police were called at 6.06am on Wednesday, February 14, following a collision between two airport vehicles on the taxiway at Heathrow Airport.

  • Officers attended with London Ambulance Service colleagues.
  • One male is believed to have sustained a broken shoulder; his injuries are not life-threatening or life-changing.
  • Another male, aged in his 40s, was taken to a west London hospital with serious injuries. He has since died.
  • Officers have informed next of kin. We await formal identification.
  • A post-mortem will be scheduled in due course.
  • There have been no arrests.
  • The Health and Safety Executive has been informed.
  • Officers from the Met’s Serious Collision Investigation Unit are investigating.

Police and airside operations vehicles at Heathrow Airport where a man, aged in his 40s, died after two airport vehicles crashed on the airfieldA Heathrow spokesperson said: “We can confirm that following a serious accident involving two vehicles on our airfield, an airport colleague has passed away. Our deepest condolences go to the family and friends affected by this accident. We will be fully cooperating with the Police in the investigation which will follow.” More than 20 flights have been delayed this morning, mostly from Terminal 5, with some held back for more than an hour. The airport confirmed the incident on Twitter and said it is unlikely to cause delays. However, passengers have complained that they have been delayed. One Twitter user wrote: “Apparently there has been an accident on one of the runways at @HeathrowAirport and many planes (including this one) are parked on the apron with unspecified delays of ‘hours’. No public news of this and no useful updates from @British_Airways — anyone out there know any more?” Another said: “With respect, it is impacting journeys departing B gates – BA710 to Zurich delayed by +2 hrs Steve Parsons/PA Wireand aircraft change required. Sending good wishes to injured staff.” And another wrote: “Well that’s disingenuous when 200 people in this plane are stuck. Tosh.” One passenger who had been on a Zurich-bound flight, told The Sun: “We boarded and waited and then the captain gave a series of apologies and further delay announcements. “It looks like some airport or airline staff may have been injured and police required an area to be closed off which prevented some planes from leaving their gates.” “The gate was surrounded by various airport service vehicles including two fire engines. There were blue lights everywhere.” British Airways confirmed: “We have apologised to customers for the delay to a small number of our flights this morning, following a serious incident involving two operational vehicles at the airport.  We are doing all we can to ensure they will be able to depart as soon as possible. “

0348 – Royalty

Royals keep updated on wedding plans using WhatsApp group, Mike Tindall reveals

Mr Tindall pictured with his daughter Mia at the Land Rover Gatcombe Horse trials in Gloucestershire last yearThe Royal family are keeping up-to-date with wedding plans and the Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy via WhatsApp, Mike Tindall has revealed. Mr Tindall, 39, and his wife Zara, 36, are expecting a second child in a year which will see the birth of Prince William and the Duchess’s third child and two royal weddings. Prince Harry, 33, and Meghan Markle, 36 are to marry on May 19 at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, the same venue that Princess Eugenie, 26, and fiance Jack Brooksbank, 29, will use in the autumn. The Queen welcomed the news that she is to become a great-grandmother for a seventh time following confirmation of Mrs Tindall’s pregnancy earlier this month, just over a year after a spokesman announced the miscarriage of a child due in 2017. Mr Tindall revealed that members of the Royal family used the messaging service WhatsApp to stay up-to-date with events in an interview with the Daily MirrorHe said: “Me, my brother and then a few of Zara’s side like her brother Pete and the cousins are on WhatsApp groups. “I wouldn’t say we’re cutting edge, but it’s just easier for some reason on WhatsApp. I’m in about 25,000 groups. “You might do it for a get-together and just stay on the group, and occasionally people will post. You’re scared to leave because you don’t want to be seen to be rude.” Earlier this month WhatsApp played down fears that a hidden member could exist in its group messages, after security researchers revealed a backdoor in the service that could allow someone to plant moles into group conversations. Mr and Mrs Tindall, who live in Gloucestershire, have been together for 16 years and are already parents to four-year-old Mia. Mrs Tindall, an Olympic medal winner and former world eventing champion, is to step back from her riding career until the baby has arrived, although she is to continue with her other commitments. She was photographed in Australia with her husband in December, where she spent Christmas on a working holiday rather than at Sandringham with senior members of the Royal family.

0332

UK weather: ‘Extreme caution’ urged on roads and trains cancelled as 80mph (130kph) gusts batter Britain

Severe gales of more than 80mph have battered parts of Britain, bringing fresh travel disruption on the roads and topping trees onto railway lines. Drivers have been warned to only travel if necessary, with delays likely on roads and trains. In Scotland, police urged motorists to drive with “extreme caution” amid wintry conditions. Emergency services in several areas reported fallen trees and National Rail reported widespread weather-related delays. Forecasters issued yellow “be aware” wind warnings as gusts reached 83mph in Tibenham Airfield, near Norwich, and 78mph in Aberdaron, Wales. UK Power Networks said more than 5,000 customers were affected by power cuts in the Geat Yarmouth area with hundreds more homes impacted across the east of England. Meanwhile, a Met Office amber weather warning of snow and ice for Scotland ended at 5am and police downgraded their advice to “high risk”. They said there is a high likelihood of disruption and delays on the roads. Meterologist Alex Burkill said: “It’s going to be a cold and blustery day with further showers especially in the north and west. “There is likely to be disruption to travel so before you had head out, it’s worth taking a look at the state of the roads you will be travelling on.”There is a risk you could be held up and delayed and if you think that’s possible, make sure you have essentials with you such as coats, water and food in case you get held up for several hours.

Trains cancelled as railway lines blocked

Disruption was caused by a train hitting a tree near Lower Sydenham in south-east London and another service colliding with a fence on the line near Sheerness-on-Sea in Kent. A tree also fell onto the line in the Deal area of Kent, while a freight train struck two sheds that had blown on to the railway between Newtown and Welshpool in Wales. In a series of tweets outlining the problems, National Rail said level crossing barriers between Chester and Wrexham had been damaged by high winds, with replacement road transport running between Chester and Shrewsbury. Meanwhile, damage to overhead power cables blocked lines between Colchester and Ipswich, and Birmingham and Redditch. Poor weather conditions also delayed journeys to and from London’s King’s Cross station after an object was caught in the overhead electric wires between Peterborough and Stevenage. Fallen trees caused disruption to journeys across networks including the Gatwick Express, Southern and Thameslink. Passengers were warned that trains might be cancelled, delayed by up to 30 minutes or revised, with disruption expected until at least midday. A Southern Rail spokesman said: “High winds can cause a number of problems for the railway, in particular obstructions caused by fallen trees and other debris blown onto the lines. In exposed coastal areas where gusts are strongest high waves may also cause damage to tracks and ballast (small stones which tracks rest on). “Network Rail, who own and maintain the railway have additional staff in place ready to respond to potential problems. They also have specialist chainsaw trained teams ready to remove fallen trees and branches.”

Which Southern lines have been affected?

  • Oxted – Uckfield
  • Oxted – East Grinstead
  • Horsham – Dorking
  • Southampton – Havant
  • Purley – Tattenham Corner

There was also widespread disruption across the South Western Railway network after a number of trees blocked lines. Passengers were warned of delays and cancellations across routes in areas including Weymouth, Bournemouth, Southampton, Portsmouth, Guildford and London Waterloo. The problem also damaged signalling equipment at Milford, Surrey, blocking lines, and power supply equipment at Hinchley Wood

Fallen trees and brick gable blown away

Several police and fire and rescue services forces, including Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Norfolk, Surrey, Gloucestershire and Cambridgeshire, reported fallen trees and urged people to take extra care. Poor weather conditions were also affecting railways in the Midlands, with overhead electric wires damaged between Wolverhampton and Stafford. West Midlands Fire Service said no one was injured when a brick gable was blown off a house in the Stoke Heath area of Coventry. Pictures posted on Twitter by crews at the city’s Foleshill fire station showed debris on the ground near the three-storey property. Meanwhile, Derbyshire Police said it had received a large amount of calls regarding fallen trees blocking roads. Passengers were being warned to expect delays to and from Manchester Piccadilly, between Birmingham New Street and Crewe, through Birmingham New Street and between Birmingham New Street and Redditch.

Weather warnings for snow and ice

 This tanker on #M74 is skidding backwards and starting to jackknife

A snow and ice warning in place for northern areas of Scotland will be extended to Northern Ireland and northern England, forecasters said. During the night, temperatures dropped at low as -7C (19F) in Loch Glascarnoch while snowfalls continued to be topped up. Eskdalemuir in Dumfries and Galloway recorded up 36cm of lying snow, while Spadeadam in Cumbria, which escaped much of the snow on Wednesday, now has 23cm of snow – with up to 20cm falling on Wednesday night alone. On Wednesday, persistent snow and ice caused treacherous driving conditions and brought the M74 in Scotland to a standstill – with more than 200 motorists stranded in their vehicles overnight – but Traffic Scotland said there were no significant incidents on the roads for rush hour traffic and traffic on the M74 was “coping well”. During the night, Police Scotland issued a “stage four” warning, advising drivers to avoid travelling on roads in areas covered by amber snow warnings. This was later downgraded to stage three to warn motorists of a “high risk of disruption” during the morning. Police Scotland Superintendent Calum Glenny said: “Despite some difficult weather conditions in the Dumfries and Galloway area which caused some disruption, the weather was not as severe as was first forecast. “Thankfully, a significant number of motorists heeded the warnings which had been issued to avoid travelling on the roads and I’d like to thank them for doing so.”